Kakigori Is the Hot (Cold) Dessert You Need to Try This Summer
New York City’s dessert of the summer is actually centuries old. Kakigori, or Japanese shaved ice, dates back to the 11th century, when nobles would eat it as a way to cool down. What makes Japan’s style unique from its Asian shaved-ice siblings (Korean patbingsu and Taiwanese paobing, for example) is its delicate, unfussy style—the thin sheets of ice are usually layered with made-from-scratch syrups and fresh fruit.
“Kakigori isn’t over the top,” says Eddie Zheng, co-owner of The Little One. So don’t expect Technicolored sprinkles, sugary cereals or even mochi. “In Japan, they’re very ingredient-focused. They use the best fruits. It’s very simple.”
Today, you don’t have to be a royal to enjoy the refreshing treat—you just need to know where to look.
Theo Friedman and Gaston Becherano became enamored with kakigori on a trip to Japan and now run pop-ups dedicated to the frozen treat at Canal Street Market and Smorgasburg. Using vintage machines imported from Asia, they hand-crank each order and finish it with creative toppings that bridge East and West, such as mango-ginger and pineapple upside down. Coming this summer: watermelon, peach and melon.
Pop-up locations; bonsaikakigori.com
The Little One
Transforming water into mounds of ice is a three-day-long process at The Little One, requiring pastry chefs Eddie Zheng and Olivia Leung to filter, freeze and temper, then shave down the blocks. While matcha and hojicha—their two nods to traditional kakigori—remain on the menu year-round, others change with the seasons. As temperatures rise, expect to see warm-weather fruits like strawberry and peach, plus collaborations with local pastry chefs.
150 E. Broadway; facebook.com/thelittleonenyc
The Lobster Club
Major Food Group (of Parm and Sadelle’s fame) dipped its toes into Asian cooking last fall with a fancy Japanese brasserie inside midtown’s famed Seagram Building. To complement sushi, wok-cooked seafood and teppanyaki steak, pastry chef Stephanie Prida conjured up a handful of Asian-inspired desserts, including a kakigori offering that changes every few months. Most recently, she swapped winter’s blood-orange shaved ice for a fluffy mountain infused with iced coffee.
98 E. 53rd St.; thelobsterclub.com
Tucked on the second floor of an East Village townhouse, Cha-an has long been a destination for Japanese-inspired sweets (hello, black sesame crème brûlée!) and kakigori is a warm-weather favorite. Cha-an’s spin is as traditional as it gets: A mound of shaved ice is doused in matcha syrup at your table.
230 E. Ninth St.; chaanteahouse.com
Owner Maiko Kyogoku was already dreaming of kakigori in winter’s frigid temps, and now it has finally been added to her menu at this cozy Noho spot. As an ode to spring, Kyogoku turns to an array of bright fruit and floral flavors, topping the frozen treat with black currant syrup, lilac and white flower blossoms, and dollops of lemony ricotta.
5 Bleecker St.; bessounyc.com
The Tokyo-born ramen shop just launched not one but five kakigori renditions: one matcha-based with red bean paste and four fruity combos (strawberry, pineapple, mango and banana rum). All will be topped with Tonchin's house-made honey cream sauce.
13 W. 36th St.; tonchinnewyork.com